With autumn almost behind us and winter just around the corner, it was time for five guests and myself to head to Madikwe Game Reserve. The clear winter skies and soft afternoon sun could only promise to deliver another magical photo safari.
Three of the guests chose to fly directly into Madikwe whereas the other two guests opted for the scenic 4 hour drive with me. Leaving Johannesburg at 0630 we allowed ourselves enough time to enjoy the route through Hartebeespoort Dam. This area is becoming a big tourist attraction point with great cultural curios all along the route. We also passed via and some of the lesser known towns and villages before arriving at Wonderboom Gate, and then to Nkurru Lodge.
Upon arrival it was evident that our group was going to get along like a house on fire. There was an instant buzz at the lodge as we sat down for lunch. The dining area overlooks the waterhole in front of Nkurru and we eased into the bush vibe as countless Zebras, Impalas and Giraffe’s came down for a drink.
Madikwe is renowned for good game viewing, especially of African Wild Dogs. So it came as no surprise to me when I asked everyone what it was that they most wanted to see, the answer was simple, Wild Dogs.
We set out on our search for the second most endangered predator in Africa (after the Ethiopian Wolf) and hoped that the radio call would come to confirm they have been spotted…
Our first few drives provided us with some good sightings of Lions, one of which was a Male Lion on a Giraffe kill. As well as two Cheetah brothers, including an incredible sighting of both of them climbing a tree.
We spent our time between Safaris going over Lightroom and working through some of the images that were captured on the previous drives. Lightroom has become such a key element, not only to process your photos to showcase the end result, but from a pure sorting files and making sure your catalogue is in order. Again, the excitement from what had been captured so far was incredible, and still one of the best feelings personally I think one could get in this line of work, watching peoples satisfaction with what they have created.
The late rains in the Madikwe area, although extremely welcoming, did provide us with a few challenges as the grass was much longer than usual. With photography, challenges can also mean great rewards, and all the guests did a fantastic job to capture images of Lions and Cheetahs in the long grass, giving it a very natural feel which is what you are looking for when photographing wildlife.
Starting to get a little anxious that there have been no signs of the Wild Dogs, AJ, our guide, recommended that we head to the Northern side of the Park to see if there are any signs there. Now I know sightings of these or any animal for that matter can never be guaranteed, but the thought that Linda (who travelled from the Bahamas and had never seen Wild Dogs) and all the other guests who so badly wanted to see them would miss this opportunity was a little too much to handle, we had to give it a shot.
Finally! We received information that the Wild Dogs were seen close to the Northern boundary, a fair way from where we were. We all agreed that there is no need to rush to Camp, and that the privilege of seeing Wild Dogs took preference (one of the huge advantages of having exclusive use of the camp and the vehicle). By the time we got to the Dogs it started warming up already, the light wasn’t great and their movement, although they got up a couple of times, was limited. It’s a start I thought, at least we have seen them, but maybe, just maybe we can get another crack at it.
That same afternoon we returned to the Wild Dogs, only to find that they had not moved an inch and continued sleeping for the rest of the afternoon (the joys of photographing wildlife, it doesn’t always come together).
During the rest of the week we had incredible sightings of Cheetahs, Elephants, White and Black Rhino’s, Brown and Spotted Hyaena… The week had everything!
On the last morning I asked AJ “Can we give the Wild Dogs one more shot?” He agreed and our search started again. For two days they have not been found and could literally be anywhere.
Our last afternoon, running out of ideas of where to find the Dogs, we agreed to head North and see what we can find (the Cheetahs had been hanging around that area too). As the sun was starting to set I thought “Well we gave it our best shot…” Then the call we had been waiting for! The Wild Dogs have been spotted only 10-15 minutes from where we were. Let’s go we all shouted with incredible excitement.
They have to move surely, the sun is about to set, this is perfect timing. We entered the sighting at the perfect time, the light was glowing orange like it can only do in that part of the world. The Dogs were slowly getting up, greeting each other and then almost out of nowhere started moving… Faster and faster… keeping up with them became challenging as they were chasing Impala’s left, right and centre… No kill was made, but what an adrenaline rush!! What a sighting to end off with!
We say that you always learn every time you are out in the field, and this just taught us again how you create your own luck if you are willing to spend the time out in the field.
Thank you so much Linda, Brad, Sallie, Nancy, Sandy and AJ for an incredible week, full of laughs, fun and great photographic opportunities.
Here are some beautiful images my guests captured during the week:
Get in touch to join us on this incredible safari.
Till next time.
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